The Grudge Trilogy Review
As we are told at the beginning of all three Japanese Horror films in the series;
“When someone dies in the grip of a powerful rage… a curse is born. The curse gathers in that place of death.
Those who encounter it will be consumed by its fury.”
Apparently that fury takes the form of a chalky white pair of Japanese ghosts that appear in the most unlikely places in screen corners and reflections, some blurry CGI effects and a black cat. Somehow on the strength of one somewhat effective film – effective as it was relatively new, had some unique imagery and a known name in Buffy herself – they managed to spin this out into an ever decreasing trilogy, that despite not changing much became more and more laughable and ridiculous.
It’s hard to believe that that only a decade ago pasty Japanese children with jet black hair over their eyes wasn’t a total cliché – or a lazy comedy punchline.
Before the torture porn craze kicked off by Hostel and friends there was a period simply dominated by remakes of Japanese horror flicks, Pulse, The Eye, The Uninvited, The Ring and The Grudge… actually pretty much anything starting with ‘the’ it seemed.
‘The Town’? ‘The Fighter’? ‘The Social Network’? ‘The King’s Speech’?
Without doubt The Ring was the best of the bunch, The Eye, Pulse and The Uninvited sucked, which brings us to The Grudge; reasonable enough…
The first time.
Of course the first made money and a sequel was always inevitable, which made less, but enough obviously to green-light the low budget cash in to squeeze this lemon dry.
Today I will take a look at them all, hopefully this will save you the trouble.
The original actually starts out reasonably well by adopting a clever technique; introduce the biggest ‘name’ actor in the film (Bill Pullman), and have him top himself in the opening minute or so. Any expectations rapidly arrived at upon seeing Mr Pullman instantly evaporate.
The rest of the film explains how he came to be so very depressed.
The basis of the story is that when an especially violent and/or rage fuelled event occurs, that particular location becomes a hot spot for ghosts and the like. A haunted house basically.
So for the next 90 minutes anyone who so much as drops by for a coffee is systematically hunted down and scared quite literally to death by a young woman and a very young Japanese boy – a boy who goes miaow in one scene – the one and only time it was offputting, even though they go to the well four or five more times in the trilogy with diminishing returns each time.
To give the Western audience reason to be concerned they manage to put a pretty white girl in harm’s way, good old Buffy herself Ms Sarah Michelle Gellar. Her character Karen is an exchange student in Japan who is performing work experience as a carer. When the previous carer goes missing (I wonder where?) she is called upon to temp.
The ghostly figures in The Grudge are not quiet and mysterious. They don’t moan softly or float through walls. They basically walk up and say ‘hi’. If you get the clever idea of running it works for a while, but they do housecalls and are happy to ring you on the phone to gurgle away menacingly. In latter films they manage to apply for passports and go globetrotting.
Strangely enough the only time they don’t immediately show is when the cops or media are present, which makes me wonder how exactly a ghost can work out ‘Not now. Too many.’
Various house visitors continue to drop off periodically as the plot and pacing demands, mostly apparently through being scared to death aside from one pretty effective scene which is gruesome – but not gory – if that makes sense… Karen manages to continue to evade the spooky occupants of the house, all the way to the conclusion of the film where they try to tack on a justification for the whole shebang.
Final Rating – 6.5 / 10. A reasonable enough teen-friendly ghost film that is occasionally arresting the first run through, even if it doesn’t hold up under close scrutiny and becomes a guessing game of which ghost will jump out and from where.
Same ghost combo. (Same cat!)
Same Sarah Michelle Gellar… even if it proves little more than a cameo splat.
Taking place immediately after the events of the first film, G2 finds Karen’s little sister Aubrey (Amber Tamlyn) heading to Japan upon hearing of her traumatic time.
When the rescue mission proves fruitless, Aubrey decides to disobey the one promise she made big sis and heads straight to the haunted home.
Bad move? You betcha.
What ensues is mostly the same set-ups and in the main the same scares. Fresh meat is found in the form of three nubile young jailbait schoolgirls – one of them the now semi-famous Teresa Palmer – and a family in America featuring Jennifer Beale as the new stepmom to two kids and a initially nice husband in Chicago…
Yes The Grudge 2 should be subtitled “The Grudge on Tour”.
Of course the trouble almost always starts when the meat visits either the house or in America goes to visit or check up on some noise or sound, even when we know they shouldn’t. And as usual what we sensible movie-goers might find instant deal-breakers are merely temporary impediments to our intrepid, stupid, characters.
There is one sub-par ‘The Ring’ rip off that might work if you hadn’t already seen The Ring – and if you think The Grudge is good you really need to see The Ring. The computer generated effects are definitely more ambitious this time around, but ultimately detrimental, and of course little pasty Japanese kids are seemingly everywhere with little other purpose but to say “boo” or to miaow (already very old by this point).
To further confuse the issue an unnecessary subplot about the origins of The Grudge somehow unjustifiably manages to become the main plot, and some confusing new un-Grudge-like elements are introduced with no explanation; Milk, mirrors and a ridiculous hoodie all must have seemed like interesting ideas, but they serve no purpose here aside from being confusing.
Final Rating – 4.5 / 10. I think every vaguely interesting idea was already squozen from the original film. I guess Hollywood rolled up on the director with a bag of money, and he decided he’d rather cobble this wreck together rather than not spend it.
By this stage the original Japanese director had given up, as had the production company who decided screw Japan as a setting let’s take everyone to Eastern Europe and call it ‘Chicago’.
In true B movie low budget style there is only one real carry-over from the cast of #2; the boy Jake, and he doesn’t get too much screen time if you know what I mean…
Shawnee Smith adds to her resume as a B movie scream queen, in this case as a Doctor if you don’t mind! But G3 is more about a trilogy of siblings; Max, Lisa and Rose, aged about 25, 20 and 7 respectively. Max manages the tenants of the apartment building that appeared in G2, a building basically deserted after the… unpleasantness. Lisa bangs her vacant boyfriend in the deserted rooms and waits for her chance to leave town, and young Rose acts badly and manages an unnamed respiratory ailment.
When a Japanese woman visits to inspect the building using a possible tenancy as an excuse, Shawnee’s ‘Doctor’ shows to do some investigation of her own, and Rose starts discussing the pasty boy that lives in the hallways, it seems not all is going to remain sunshine and rainbows.
Cue the talcum powder wrangler and the creepy Japanese kids!
Only this time the ghostly duo just look… wrong. The makeup job is terrible – Scary Movie parody quality – and for some reason the subtle herky-jerky movements from the original staircase scene are ramped up to the extent that the girl now looks like an extra from The Bangles Walk like an Egyptian video, and the perpetual ‘O’ that her mouth makes results in her appearing like the clown you put ping-pong balls into at the sideshow alley.
The miaowing kid is there too, the miaow long since before losing its menace and surprise factor, and of course they appear almost everywhere in the building.
Most 3s are desperate to recapture the hooks of the first films and ramp up the gore and speed, G3 slows things down – at least until the end – which is odd, as without a sense of ‘more’ it was already obvious that this was a series out of ideas, slowing it down would only serve to exacerbate the feeling.
I found the casting of Lisa pretty symbolic of where this film was coming from. She looks like a cross between Sarah Michelle Gellar from G1 and Naomi Watts from the infinitely more superior The Ring, maybe the casting staff felt that she might remind us of a better J Horror film and also the best film in this flawed series?
G3 wasn’t entirely terrible, it had one creative scene with a reasonable scare, an effective subliminal scare (that took all of 1 second but whatever), and the same The Ring rip that they had already stolen in G2, but at least it ignores the mirror scare and bizarre milk sequences from G2 that made no sense whatsoever.
Final Rating – 5 / 10. The final cash grab cuts corners everywhere and steals liberally from the earlier films, becoming an unnecessary entry in an unnecessary trilogy, only existing to fool DVD renters with name recognition.
Final Trilogy Rating – 6 / 10. The first film was only OK, but it made a few bucks and I suppose justified a sequel. But when you beat a premise into the ground and constantly rehash the same old tired ‘scare’ techniques the result is a jaded audience and eventually apathy – even Mike and Sully from Monsters Inc found that out!
Ask Marilyn Manson how long it takes before pasty makeup and lank strands of black hair go from menacing and subversive to comical, ridiculous and eminently ignorable. (By my reckoning two albums in his case.)
With The Grudge it was ten minutes into the second film…
The posters you used for The Grudge 1 & 2 aren’t even for those movies…
OK I’ll cop to the first one, good get. Well done.
Thanks for the feedback. I guess.
Been yes. But only, she because he’d been very long hours on some his were a far from he had no history of or were there’d been no to his will or his was on a business to a office in but he and and he that while had he hadn’t even was to for but she to do more than she’d been for the to be on or somebody in the had that looking into and her the from the that wasn’t’s though, at first could find no of play. But that at the time of his had a his right hand was of the house, all the way to the conclusion of the film where they try to tack on a justification for the whole shebang. Final rating 6.5/10. A reasonable enough teen-friendly ghost film that is occasionally arresting the first run